The day my son started school is one I recall vividly. Admittedly, it wasn’t all that long ago, though sometimes the 5 years feels like 5 minutes. Of course there were tears, but not as expected from my son, but from me. I found the first day, the first morning to be this weighted milestone that my head knew was a good thing, but my heart felt otherwise. There was an ‘ah ha’ moment when I realised that the obligatory yet seemingly unhelpful advice of being told to ‘enjoy this moment, the time goes so fast’ was finally making sense. On the one hand I wanted to bundle him up and take him home with me and stay in a place of pleasant denial. Parents around me seemed be acting normal, there was laughter, photos, hugging, a sense of happy anticipation filled the classroom. For me, it was only a moment ago that I was holding him to my heart and smelling his little newborn head and now I was expected to leave him to fend for himself in the vastness of the school grounds. I felt an intense lack of control in keeping him safe. I worried he would get lost. What if someone forgot about him? What if he needed me?
What if I need him?
Really, I was fine.
Five years on and actually I am fine. In the last week we have braved the Westfield school shoe pop up shop, I’ve ironed uniforms, repurchased a new hat that I know I will be replacing by term two and downloaded a stupid amount of lunch box idea PDF’s also knowing I will be buying snack packs of pizza shapes by week two.
A few years ago, I wrote about the anxiety a friend of mine was feeling when she was preparing her child for their first day of school. Her anxiety was related to the other mum and how she may be welcomed or not. She was wondering what she should wear on the first day and as well had thoughts about other irrelevant things that in the moment she thought were necessary, but it will only be in hindsight that she will realise that these things will indeed be meaningless. It was as if she was a 12-year-old girl, and it was her first day of high school. The nervous anticipation and insecurity. Worrying and wondering what people may or may not think.
Does it ever really end?
There are those memes and articles that get thrown about, usually around this time of year, about all of the different types of mums you come across. Yoga mum, busy mum, glamour mum, hot mess mum. It’s never been about the dads has it? In the 90’s we watched Sex in the City and asked each other Are you a Carrie or a Miranda? There is this perceived notion that we can only be defined by our work status or what we wear to 3pm pick up. A society fixated by slotting people, especially mothers, into stereotypes further perpetuated by the reels of Instagram. In my experience, these stereotypes are patently untrue and are an inaccurate depiction of a person, suggesting we are only one dimensional. The ridiculous assumption that the President of the Parents Committee has nothing better to do with his or her time than to recruit volunteers and the belief that a working parent will spend her mornings doing everything to avoid said President. God forbid if you wear lycra to pick up because according to these memes you spend your days at yoga followed by the nail spa. In reality, we could all quite easily fall into any “category” dependent on any given day, dependent on the weather, our mood or whether a small person spilt cereal on us that morning.
I know these stereotypes are mostly a joke, but these kinds of typecasts only further add to the anxieties of others, and they do not support the sisterhood and trust me, when my son started school five years ago, I found a sisterhood. They say you need to find your tribe, well I’m here to tell you that your tribe may well be those other mothers at school. Friendships that will see you through the Saturday morning birthday circuit and send you a text to remind you that it is “dress like a scientist” day and don’t forget a gold coin. Who the hell has time to remember that? The sisterhood, that’s who.
In the years since my son has started school I have come to get to know some great women, those who are the no drama, sisterhood loving kind and so I have recreated a school mum manifesto.
- The school mum crowd is such a diverse group of women. Of course, some worked, other’s worked part time, others were not in paid work. There were single parents, co-parents, step parents, carers, grandparents, uncoupled and coupled parents and no one gave a shit who was who.
- Everyone clearly loved their child and just wanted the best for them.
- Everyone was just doing the best they could.
- As long as there was no peanut butter, what you packed in your child’s lunchbox was only your business.
- For every child you have at school you will make approximately 180 lunches per child per year.
- The school gate was not a fashion parade, people wore whatever they damned well liked and no one gave a shit.
- You will never see so many chicken nuggets until you do a 3-hour tuckshop shift.
- Participate if you can, don’t if you can’t.
- Take snacks to the swim carnival.
- Take extra snacks to the swim carnival to share with the other mums (such as me) who forgot to pack snacks.
- Everyone probably has the same anxiety as you do. I could be seen standing at school assembly, getting teary as I watched my son sing the words to the school song whilst concentrating so hard to get the actions right.
- Even if you suck at trivia, go to Trivia Night. If you get the answers wrong and make your team come last (and I know this to be especially true) no one really cares.
- Join the unofficial school facebook page. It is a treasure trove.
- I did worry what others thought but realised that this was nonsense and pointless and fortunately it didn’t last.
- If you cry in a Kleenex commercial, your child’s first year of school will probably undo you. Save your tears for the nativity play at the end of year Christmas concert.
You only know what you know, and my experience when Charlie started school was just that, my experience, so maybe I got lucky and maybe the politics of the school run/school gate is a real thing but in my case it was just a bunch of parents taking their kids to school. There is something spectacular about school mum friends, don’t be afraid to find this out.
Enjoy the madness, embrace the friendships and be yourself.
(This post was first written a few years ago and this is an update version since I have a few more years of school mum experience under my belt.)